Friday, 12 April 2013

A political party that ignores the mass media is destined to fail

A political party that ignores the mass media is destined to fail

Election after election the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have used mass media campaigns to raise the profile of their candidates and promote their political messages. The idea that you can win elections merely by spreading a few thousands of leaflets here and there without any mass media exposure is simply nonsensical.

UKIP successes are very much based on a country-wide mass media campaign. The moment you start to be seen as a successful organisation, you actually become successful. The British National Party has been in politics for more than 30 years and during all those years has had up and downs like any other political party but the one fundamental thing the British National Party has not had is a real appreciation of the importance of mass media and therefore, in times of political and financial prosperity, failed to invest in the development of a proper mass media apparatus.

There have been embryonic attempts to create a real media department but what has been done has had a limited external impact and has been mostly for internal purposes.

For the first time in its history, the British National Party had an opening and this happened during the 2012 GLA Elections campaign. There was a golden opportunity to take the first steps towards the creation of a real mass media presence but, unfortunately, such golden opportunity was missed and since then the British National Party went back to old campaigning practices. A huge financial effort was made to finance the electoral campaign and register candidates, but there was no real coherent strategy and no logistical operation to support the candidates. We focused our efforts delivering leaflets and manifesto copies but the London team had the distinct feeling that they were acting merely as individuals.

The catalogue of negativity combined with smears was too much of a hurdle and the mood was very subdued to the point that on the very same day when the outcome of the election was going to be made public most of the candidates standing in the election and the vast majority of those who had campaigned did not bother to turn up. This increased even more the feeling of isolation and lack of solidarity.

We went to the London Assembly building having no illusions. In several occasions we had spoken about the need to ensure the survival of the organisation putting ourselves on the line of fire and we did out duty. Perhaps Horatio Nelson’s signal at the start of the Battle of Trafalgar ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’ would have been most appropriate in this occasion since we were going into battle knowing that winning was practically impossible.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that in many occasions other political parties have not defeated the British National Party. In actual fact, the British National Party has defeated itself. When the British National Party fought in Barking and Dagenham and managed to win 12 seats and become the official Opposition, the British National Party had no idea of how successful it was going to be and was completely unprepared. Of the 12 candidates elected, a small minority had real political experience and, therefore, one of the most fantastic opportunities the British National Party had had since its creation in 1982 was completely wasted.

Something very similar happened in 2008 when the British National Party, against all expectations, managed to win a seat in the London Assembly. The seat was won but the lack of a working team for London and the lack of understanding in terms of mass media developments transformed success into yet another defeat and we were in the news for the wrong reasons.

The defeats in Barking - the loss of all representation in the local authority and the defeat of 2010 in the fight for a seat in Westminster - and the squabbles of two consecutive leadership elections were the backdrop of the 2012 London Assembly Elections.

We have managed to pick up the pieces. The finances of the British National Party are now in order and people are out campaigning but we still lack enough understanding in terms of mass media and this is undoubtedly our greatest weakness.

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